Bar concedes payment of QC selection costs

The Bar Council has offered to pay for the QC selection procedure that currently costs the taxpayer £80,000 a year.

The concession has been made at a time when the QC system is coming under increasing attack.

Labour MP Andrew Dismore has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons calling for the abolition of QCs.

So far, it has won the support of 102 MPs.

Dismore's campaign was fuelled this week by the release of answers to a series of parliamentary questions Dismore recently put to the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD).

He says: “The release of answers to these questions is another piece of evidence in the campaign, which is gathering momentum, to reform or abolish the QC system.”

The parliamentary an-swers revealed that one barrister has applied to become a QC 25 times but has never had to pay a penny towards administration costs. Only successful QCs pay a one-off fee of £150.

A council spokesman says: “So long as it is introduced fairly and reasonably, we would like to see the cost of applications being recoverable from all applicants.”

The spokesman claims that LCD Minister of State Geoff Hoon “thinks it is a good idea”.

In the written parliamentary answer, Hoon says the LCD has no plans to recover expenditure on administering applications, although it continues to “review the situation”.

The council says QCs provide a vital public service. High-profile inquiries, for example, are headed by QCs because they command respect intellectually, while also enjoying an independent status.

He comments: “There are good QCs and bad QCs. It is an old boys' network.”

Dismore says that the parliamentary answers show discrimination against ethnic minorities and women, while barristers under 38 or over 50 “have practically no chance”.